By Raiza Giorgi


Santa Barbara County Public Health officials reported an increase of 70 COVID-19 cases and one death as of Wednesday evening. Sixty-five of the 70 cases were from the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary. Inmate Jimmie Lee Houston, 75, who had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions which the CDC lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease, died late Wednesday evening, according to the Bureau of Federal Prisons.

Houston was sentenced in the District of Alaska to a 120-month sentence for Possessing a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute, Possessing a Firearm with Obliterated Serial Number, and Criminal Forfeiture Allegation. He had been in custody at Lompoc since February 16, 2018, according to the Bureau of Prisons. 

Houston’s death marks the 10th person to be listed as a result of COVID-19, however Santa Barbara County Public Health officials have yet to give underlying causes for the deaths stating it would be a HIPAA violation. In a prior press briefing when six people were listed as dying from COVID-19, Public Health Officer Henning Ansorg clarified that three people were clear as having passed from COVID-19, while the other three had severe underlying health conditions which made it hard to determine. 

Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said a majority of the inmates who have tested positive were only showing mild or no symptoms, and a few were experiencing acute health care problems.

The remaining 441 cases in the county, 355 have fully recovered; 24 are in local hospitals, with 10 in the ICU; 43 are recovering at home. There are still only six cases reported in the Santa Ynez Valley. 

As the new testing facility in Santa Maria went online as of Tuesday there were 116 people tested and the results are pending. Do-Reynoso said she expected an increase in the number of people who test positive because more people are being tested. 

Additional testing sites will open at Earl Warren Showgrounds today, and in Lompoc on Friday. 

Screening and appointments are available between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Those who wish to make an appointment can visit or call 888-634-1123. The test costs will be billed to health insurance, or will be free, Do-Reynoso added.